One of my greatest pleasures in life is naming a series that nobody has ever heard of whenever I’m asked, “What have you been watching recently?” “Oh, just this Danish series I found on Walter Presents”, or “a French one about a serial killer in the Alps” or “a BBC 4 miniseries from 2007” — believe me, I’m not like other girls. There was one genre in particular that I’d always declare, quite proudly, that I’d never watch: reality TV. Every year Love Island would air again and somehow the whole nation would get whipped up into a frenzy every weekday at 9 pm. The appeal? I didn’t understand until I put my pride aside and stumbled into the world of Kim Kardashian and her many sisters.

It actually didn’t take much for me to undergo a remarkably swift transition from reality TV hater to Kourtney Kardashian’s newest fan. Turns out I wasn’t such a die-hard TV snob after all. All it took to transform me was sitting down with some friends one afternoon earlier this summer; with the TV glaring at us, we had no option other than to (strictly ironically) watch an episode from the mother of all reality TV shows: Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Soon enough, there was nothing ironic about watching it. One episode turned into two, then three, and, before we knew it, all we could think about was whether Kourtney and Scott would get back together.

Keeping Up With The Kardashians may be nothing more than a showcase of people famous for doing nothing except stir up drama for our entertainment, and that same description might easily be applied to thousands of other reality TV shows that flood an oversaturated market. Yet, I enjoyed it so much that soon enough I wasn’t just “ironically” watching episodes of Keeping Up With The Kardashians with friends. I started watching it alone and getting through the series alarmingly quickly.

TV that doesn’t demand a shred of intellectual autonomy from you

Kris Jenner has managed to lace something addictive into the show that I struggle to pinpoint. What is it about watching people not doing anything other than yell at each other and order salad bowls that hooks millions of viewers? Part of the appeal is that if you’re looking to switch off, it allows you to do that. You don’t need to have any thoughts deeper than “oh wow, that’s bad” or “hm, interesting”. Critics have long derided reality TV as the genre that kills your brain cells. But, in an age where everything often feels overly serious, maybe that’s exactly what we need: some brain cells to be killed off and to sit back, relax and enjoy TV that doesn’t demand a shred of intellectual autonomy from you.

Reality TV, as a genre, remains unpretentious and entertaining, and it serves as a means of escapism. For students feeling intellectually over-stretched, it’s the perfect way to unwind. Watching a reality TV show is only as intellectually intense as you want it to be. Want to treat it as a socio-anthropological study of modern relationships (Love Island) or an observation of familial relationships in an upper-middle-class LA family in pre-Trump and post-Trump America (Keeping Up With The Kardashians)? Be my guest.


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However, you can also just sit in front of the TV for a few hours and not think about anything except how entertaining Kris Jenner’s scheming is or how much you love Gemma Collins. The ability to take a show as seriously as you like may hold the answer to the genre’s ever-present appeal for the general public. So, if you want something much less existential-angst-inducing than whatever’s going on in the world at the moment, then Kris Jenner and her offspring are always there to welcome you with open arms.